How do I Get Rid of Medical Debt?

You can negotiate your medical bills.

You can negotiate your medical bills.

Getting “rid" of legitimate medical debt isn't going to happen, but there are ways of managing, and even lowering your debt. Your negotiation efforts are more likely to succeed if you can show good faith: Be proactive and respond to requests for payment promptly. If your situation is truly dire, you may need to seek advice from a third party, such as a credit counselor or bankruptcy lawyer.

Talk to your doctor or hospital financial counselor about getting a discount on your bills. For example, if you don't have insurance, ask if they can bill you at insurance company rates (which are usually lower). If you can pay something in cash, see if they will give you a discount or settle your account for less than you owe.

Appeal any unpaid claims with your insurance company. You'll probably have to act quickly, as you may only have a limited time to challenge their decision not to pay your claim.

Examine your medical bills for procedures or drugs that you don't think you received or charges that seem unreasonably high. If you think that some of the charges are questionable, ask your hospital billing department for clarification. You can also hire a medical-billing advocate who specializes in reviewing medical bills for mistakes. You'll have to pay for her services, but if your bills contain errors that you can't spot on your own, she can save you a bundle.

Take your medical expenses as a tax write-off . If your paid medical expenses during a calendar year are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, they are tax deductible.

Consider getting credit counseling or speaking to a bankruptcy attorney if you can't negotiate or pay off your debt. Credit counselors can help you create a budget and set up a repayment plan with your creditors. A bankruptcy attorney, on the other hand, can advise you as to whether bankruptcy is a feasible solution to your situation. While bankruptcy can damage your credit, it may be your best option if your financial situation is truly out of control.

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About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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